Book Trailer The Noble Train

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Appeal of Downton Abbey

Yeah Ok. I admit  it. I'm hooked. And I don't watch anything on television except movies, American Experience, and crappy reruns of really old shows. So why am I so into this drama of an aristocratic family in England at the turn of the century? Could it be our very democratic ideas have become tiresome to us and we now are fascinated with a world where the servants dress better than we do? They are dapper are they not? And they are Irish.

And maybe it is the class rigidity we find comforting. In England of that time you were either of the upper class, the middle, or the working class. And you did not move. Upward mobility is an American ideal not an English one. The English were very comfortable with knowing their station and yes there were those who chaffed (read any DH.Lawrence novel) but for the most part people accepted their position and relished the security.

Notice the way everyone stands up when the Butler or any of the family walk in. Uh oh. Here comes that other very un-American word: respect. Or better yet respectability. Our culture has lived on the fodder of breaking apart respectability. Our bread and butter is the story of the upstart from the lower classes who rises up and reveals the immorality of the upper class. A lot our movies from Trading Places to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Good Will Hunting to Gatsby all are variations on the theme that classes should be obliterated and that were is something corrupt about the upper classes.

But not Lord Gratham who cares about his tenant farmers and keeping everyone employed. This then is a different upper class from our American counterpart. A sense of nobles oblige permeates Downton Abbey against the crass consumerism of our own culture. And we are weary. We are weary with out politics, our blood soaked culture, our nihilism that permeates every corner of our entertainment mega industry. Is it any wonder we are drawn to the quiet venerable niceties of the late nineteenth/ early twentieth century when everyone knew their place and did their part?

Or is just a really good story?
Rocket Man...the American Dream upside down

Books by William Hazelgrove